Brian Marsh Semrinec, an Army veteran, is behind bars for murdering his girlfriend, Shuyi Li, a Chinese national from Guangdong Province, at her home in Smyrna, Georgia.
On the morning of Sept. 18, 2017, Li was scheduled to work, but she never showed up. Her employer, co-workers, and friends began to worry about her safety.
That’s when they contacted the Cobb County Police Department and requested a welfare check.
At around 1 p.m., police officers arrived at Li’s residence in the 2300 block of Willington Shoals Place and knocked on the door.
When no one answered, they forced their way inside and found the 28-year-old dead on the kitchen floor. She was wrapped in a blanket and partially hidden underneath a pile of items.
Her body was transported to the Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, which showed she had been struck multiple times with a sharp-edged instrument.
That object “caused several very large lacerations to the back of her head and neck, which resulted in Li’s death,” Cobb County police said in a warrant.
The murder weapon has never been recovered, but medical experts suspect that Li was beaten and bludgeoned to death inside the home she shared with Semrinec.
Li was originally from China, and the news of her death quickly went viral on Chinese social media, which “raised more fears for those who want to study abroad in the United States,” according to Shanghaiist.
Bing Zeng, president of the Atlanta chapter of the Association of Chinese Professionals, said Li’s death was “devastating.”
She added, “She had only been in the States about three years and was excited about graduating and landing a job in her field.”
“She was a beautiful, intelligent, and hard-working young lady. She doesn’t deserve this.”
After moving to the United States in 2015, she earned a master’s degree in building construction from the Georgia Institute of Technology and landed a job at a renovation company in Canton, Georgia, where she met Semrinec.
They dated for almost a year, but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, their “relationship was tainted by domestic violence.”
Semrinec, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and frequent nightmares after serving in Afghanistan, immediately became a suspect.
Police officials learned that her vehicle, a Honda CR-V, was missing, and her credit cards were still being used.
He then became the subject of a nationwide manhunt. Authorities offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts.
The search for Semrinec came to an end on Sept. 26, 2017, when police officials received a call from a Veterans Affairs hospital in Dallas, Texas.
They said a patient, who was identified as Semrinec, allegedly confessed to a guard that he had killed his girlfriend.
When police officers arrived at the hospital, Semrinec was arrested without incident.
He was temporarily held at the Dallas County Jail until he was expedited back to Georgia and booked into the Cobb County Adult Detention Center, where he was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.
Police learned through an investigation that after Semrinec murdered his girlfriend, he stole her vehicle and fled to Dallas, Texas, but along the way, he used her credit card at several gas stations and grocery stores.
He then checked himself into a Veterans Affairs hospital for a mental health check-up.
While there, 11 Alive reported that he confided in the hospital’s security guard and confessed to killing his girlfriend at the home they shared in Georgia, but he never gave a motive for killing Li.
Semrinec underwent a psychiatric evaluation after his arrest, per the defense’s request, and he was deemed competent to stand trial, according to the Marietta Daily News.
In lieu of going to trial, Semrinec opted to plead guilty to murdering Li, whom prosecutor Jesse Evans described as a “remarkable young woman.”
“Her loss deeply impacted not only her family members but members of the community who knew her.”
During Semrinec’s sentencing in November 2018, Cobb Superior Court Judge Gregory Poole said, “I’m not going to sit here and lecture you. I don’t know why in the world I would do that.”
“I don’t understand this matter, I don’t understand this crime, and I don’t understand why someone would take the life of a young woman under any circumstances. I just don’t understand it.”
Semrinec was sentenced to life in prison, and he will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years.